If employees must wear protective clothing and equipment to perform their jobs, they should be compensated for the time they spend putting on (“donning”) and taking off (“doffing”) that gear. When employers treat those minutes as off-the-clock work and fail to pay those employees, they’re committing wage theft in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Generally, employees aren’t paid for the time they incur changing clothes at the beginning and end of the workday. But personal protective equipment (PPE) such as ear protection, safety glasses, steel-toed boots, bump caps, and other accessories that are required by law, by the employer, or due to the nature of the job are not considered clothing.
Therefore, the valuable time workers spend donning and doffing gear each day is considered a “principal activity” for which they should be compensated. And when that time – as well the time it takes for employees to travel from locker rooms to workstations – exceeds 40 hours a week, they are entitled to overtime equal to 150% of their base hourly rate.
Workers in meat and poultry processing facilities are some of the most common victims of wage abuse, along with those with jobs in chemical plants, health care, and law enforcement. Many employees victimized by unfair pay practices have fought all the way to the to the U.S. Supreme Court, bringing class action lawsuits against companies such as:
- Gerber Products
- Hillshire Brands (formerly Sara Lee)
- Hilton LAX Airport Hotel
- Kraft Foods/Oscar Mayer
- Los Angeles Police Department
- National Beef Packing Company
- Tyson Foods
- United States Steel Corp.
If you believe your employer has deprived you of wages and overtime, the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz Employment Litigation Group have successfully represented hourly workers in lawsuits for unpaid donning and doffing time and other forms of wage abuse. Please contact us today to discuss your situation and the potential damages to which you may be entitled.